The sexism that really sucks

29 Aug 2011 11:30 pm
Posted by: Donna

I was working on a project today that required me to research powerfully influential Arizona Republicans. It led me to the website of HighGround, the public affairs and political consulting outfit led by Chuck Coughlin, who is known as Governor Jan Brewer’s “brain”. HighGround has a blog that they update from time to time and they happened to add a new post today. Here’s an excerpt:

Voters have embraced the Governor’s stance on issues from illegal immigration to the economy, but “journalists” discount it by assuming someone must be making decisions for her – – deciding who and what she supports. Would they draw this conclusion if our Governor was a man? Doubt it.

It’s no secret the playing field is still uneven, but in politics it’s magnified. While profiles of male politicians typically focus on issues, profiles of female politicians first focus on the person. Women seem to be saddled with terms that are almost “excuses” for their personalities – – straight-forward, tough. You don’t often read that someone is a “strong man”, but there are many “strong women” in politics. While this may be an attempt at a compliment, it’s really pointing out what the “journalist” considers to be the norm: that women by nature are weak.

It would be nice if journalists could escape their superficial universe of stereotypes and be as sophisticated as their readers. Instead we get stories about Hillary Clinton’s hair. Never ones about Colin Powell’s.

This is a perfect example of conservatives (despite their naked hostility to women making gains in society) embracing feminist rhetoric to defend a conservative female politician. In this case it’s particularly annoying for Coughlin to try and defend Brewer with that since the governor who immediately preceded her was Janet Napolitano. I don’t recall any journalists in Arizona assuming that Napolitano was “weak” due to her innate female nature or led around by the nose by male political advisors. I certainly don’t recall any of her advisors having to post blogs insisting that “she has a mind of her own!” Because, you know, it was pretty obvious to any sentient being in Arizona that Governor Janet Napolitano had a mind of her own.

Which gets me to what really ticks me off about this whole thing. Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, Jan Brewer, et al are dangerous ignoramuses. It’s a matter of public record, and not at all sexist to point out. So there’s no need for stupid and gratuitous attacks on them. The real travesty is the amount of latitude that privileged right wing men are given. George W. Bush got a free pass in 2000 for being an intellectually uncurious dullard and bully because he was 1) male, 2) from a rich and powerful family, and 3) the Governor of Texas. Rick Perry appears to be going down the same lucky path in 2010.

If Rick Perry were Rachel Perry (yes, you’re right, Chuck Coughlin) we’d be seeing a lot of stories about her “good hair”. We’d also see a lot harder scrutiny of Rachel Perry’s personal life, and her whackadoodle positions on everything from abortion to the death penalty to oil drilling. But Rick Perry is Rick Perry. And he’s going to get a lot of latitude that he really doesn’t deserve. Because he’s a rich white man.

That’s sexist and it sucks, really.

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